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Open Fist revives Brian Friel’s evocative
masterpiece ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’
LOS ANGELES (June 18, 2019) — The beautiful, rolling hills of Ireland hold many stories and secrets. Open Fist Theatre Company presents Dancing at Lughnasa by the great Irish playwright Brian Friel. Barbara Schofield directs Friel’s Tony Award-winning masterpiece for a July 12 opening at Atwater Village Theatre, where performances will continue through Aug. 18. Pay-what-you-want previews begin July 6.
Hailed by Time magazine as “the most elegant and rueful memory play since The Glass Menagerie,” Dancing at Lughnasa is set in the summer of 1936 during the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa. Five unmarried sisters — Kate, Maggie, Agnes, Rose and Chris — live in the rural Irish countryside outside the tiny village of Ballybeg; loosely based on the lives of Friel’s mother and aunts, the play is a rich and deeply moving portrait of their everyday lives, as remembered through the eyes of Chris’s seven-year-old son, Michael, now an adult.
“In this historically contentious and divisive period, I long to bring to life a play which speaks so poetically to our common humanity” says Schofield, whose directing credits include previous Open Fist productions of Machinal by Sophie Treadwell, Rock ‘n’ Roll by Tom Stoppard and Stage Door by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. “Dancing at Lughnasa is a play about love and loss and family, about dreams and disappointments and desire. A play in which magic is still possible in the face of life’s harsh realities. Where the lives of simple, flawed characters struggling to survive are ennobled by something greater than their personal successes or, more often, failures — ennobled by their passionate desire to live, to connect with each other and to remain human.”
First staged at Ireland’s Abbey Theatre in 1990, Dancing at Lughnasa transferred to London in 1991, winning both the Olivier and Evening Standard awards for best play. It opened on Broadway the following year, earning additional Tony and New York Drama Critics’ Circle best play awards. Overwhelming international recognition brought it to the big screen in 1998 with Meryl Streep in the role of Kate.
The Open Fist production stars artistic director Martha Demson as Kate at performances in July, with company member Jennifer Zorbalas (Anna in the Tropics) taking over in August. Lane Allison (deLEARious) plays Maggie; Ann Marie Wilding (What Matters Now?/! political pop-up) portrays Agnes, Sandra Kate Burck (The Gary Plays) is Rose, Caroline Klidonas (All Night Long) plays Chris, and David Shofner (What Matters Now?/!) looks back on it all as Michael. Also in the cast are Christopher Cappiello (Walking to Buchenwald) as their brother, Jack, recently returned home after 25 years as a missionary in Uganda, and Scott Roberts (making his Open Fist mainstage debut, previously seen at the Odyssey, Rubicon, A Noise Within, Pacific Resident Theater, Boston Court) as Michael’s father, who shows up for a rare and unexpected visit.
The creative team includes scenic designer James Spencer, lighting designer Matt Richter, composer and sound designer Tim Labor, costume designer Mylette Nora and prop master Bruce Dickinson. The choreographer is Jason Gorman, and the dialect coach is Deborah Ross Sullivan. The production stage manager is Jennifer Palumbo.
Brian Friel (1929-2015), often described as the “Irish Chekhov,” won international acclaim for his distinctive blend of melancholy and humor. He is known for exploring themes of cultural identity and social change, loss and disillusionment, the search for belief and the yearning for transcendence, the power of the imagination and the lure of escapism, the importance of language and the significance of history. In 1996, New York Times Sunday theater critic Vincent Canby called Friel Ireland’s “greatest living dramatist,” writing that he “dazzles us with plays that speak in a language of unequaled poetic beauty and intensity.” Friel’s oeuvre includes 24 published plays, including Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Faith Healer.
Open Fist Theatre Company is a collective, self-producing artistic enterprise with all facets of its operation run by its artist members. The company’s name combines the notion that an open spirit, embracing all people and all ideas, is essential, with the idea that determination, signified by a fist, is necessary if the theater is to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness.
Dancing at Lughnasa opens on Friday, July 12 at 8.p.m., with performances thereafter on Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. and Mondays at 8 p.m. through Aug. 18. There will be one additional Friday night performance on Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. Four preview performances take place on Saturday, July 6 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 7 at 4 p.m.; Monday, July 8 at 8 p.m.; and Thursday, July 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 with advance purchase, $30 at the door on Saturdays and Sundays; $20 with advance purchase, $25 at the door on Mondays and on Friday, Aug. 16; and $40 advance purchase and $45 at the door on Friday, July 12, which includes a post-performance opening night reception. Tickets to previews are Pay-What-You-Want.
Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (323) 882-6912 or go to www.openfist.org.
Details for Calendar Listings
‘Dancing at Lughnasa’
Dancing at Lughnasa — The beautiful, rolling hills of Ireland hold many stories and secrets. Set in the summer of 1936 during the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnasa, Brian Friel’s Tony Award-winning play, loosely based on the lives of his mother and aunts, is a rich and deeply moving portrait of the everyday lives of five sisters, just as everything is on the brink of change.
• Written Brian Friel
• Directed by Barbara Schofield
• Starring Lane Allison, Sandra Kate Burck, Christopher Cappiello, Martha Demson, Caroline Klidonas, Scott Roberts, David Shofner, Ann Marie Wilding, Jennifer Zorbalas
• Presented by Open Fist Theatre Company, Martha Demson, artistic director
Previews July 6 – July 11
Performances: July 12 – Aug. 18:
• Thursday at 8 p.m.: July 11 ONLY (preview)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: July 12 (opening night) and Aug. 16 ONLY
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: July 6 (preview),13, 20, 27; Aug 3, 10, 17
• Sundays at 4 p.m.: July 7 (preview), 14, 21, 28; Aug 4, 11, 18
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: July 8 (preview),15, 22, 29; Aug 5, 12
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(FREE parking in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater)
(323) 882-6912 or www.openfist.org
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• Saturdays and Sundays: $25 with advance purchase, $30 at the door
• Mondays and Friday, Aug. 16: $20 with advance purchase, $25 at the door
• Friday, July 12 (opening night): $40 with advance purchase, $45 at the door (includes catered reception)
• Previews: Pay-What-You-Want